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Fri, 06 Dec 2019 13:31 GMT

50 Days to the US Midterm Election, Experts Say “Expect the Unexpected”


Meriam H. Helal

Mon, 17 Sep 2018 21:12 GMT

In Fifty days, the Midterm election will take place and Democrats are highly expected to retake the House of Representatives majority and have a real chance at winning back the Senate too. Democrats would need to gain a healthy 23 seats to take back the House. They are defending more than twice as many Senate seats as the Republicans, with 10 of them in states won by Trump in 2016.

The White House and Republicans argue the growing economy will bolster Republic defences and save their majorities. Yet Republican leaders have also put out warning signals, highlighting the reality that their party is playing defence with 50 days to go. Experts say Republicans will face competitive battles in Tennessee, Arizona and Texas, three dependably Republican states.

Democratic dreams of winning could come true if a series of close races break in their favour. Here is why.

First, it’s a potentially pivotal moment in the Mueller probe that could put prosecutors in the room of a much-talked-about 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Trump campaign officials and figures associated with the Kremlin. Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, was one of three key Trump associates who participated in that meeting. Manafort pleaded guilty last Friday September 14th and agreed to cooperate with Robert Mueller.

Second, the electoral map is changing dramatically. Close races have not emerged in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Ohio, three states won by Trump where Democrats are defending Senate seats. In the House, 11 Republican seats are considered "likely Democrat" or "leaning Democrat" compared to one seat held by Democrats that is considered likely to be won by Republicans. The one Democratic seat, in Pennsylvania, is likely to be won by a Republican candidate because of newly drawn district lines. Another 28 Republican held seats are considered toss-ups, compared to just three for Democrats.

Now the Republican leaders are fighting back. They warn that a Democratic takeover of the House would lead to impeachment for Trump, a message intended to fire up the president’s base. They also warn of a leftward tilt to the Democratic Party seen in a few primary upsets, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s victory in New York over Republican Joseph Crowley.

Democratic leaders, as they have done for much of 2018, are seeking to tamp down impeachment talk while focusing on healthcare and other pocketbook issues. Representative Ben Ray Luján, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said that healthcare will be the top issue for voters this year with no intention of raise the issue of the possible impeachment of the president.

Third, Democrats have been raising more money than their Republican counterparts, another factor pointing to greater enthusiasm for their side.  

Fourth, President Trump is likely to play an outsize role in the midterms even with Democrats downplaying impeachment, as deep dissatisfaction with the president has helped boost Democratic turnout throughout the primaries. Trump’s approval rating currently sits just below 41%, according to a polling average compiled by FiveThirtyEight. That’s lower than former President Obama’s approval rating in 2010, the same year that Republicans took the majority in the House and gained six seats in the Senate. 

On the other hand, sitting presidents typically see their party lose congressional seats in their first midterms, putting history squarely on the Democrats’ side.

However, experts say that there is still time for Trump to turn some news cycles to his advantage. How the White House responds to Hurricane Florence will be a test of the president’s leadership and the administration’s preparations. Trump insisted last week that federal, state and local officials were “absolutely prepared” for the hurricane. But with any American elections, experts say “always expect the unexpected!”

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